A Christian family who fled Pakistan following persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists have seen their hopes dashed after being forced to live in traumatizing conditions in Thailand.
In an emotional interview with CBN News, Mustaq Faisal revealed that he and his family were forced to leave their home in Pakistan and flee to Thailand after he and his family were marked for death by their Muslim neighbours last year.
The Christian man explained that while in Pakistan, his neighbors accused him of tearing pages from the Quran and threatened to kill his family in revenge.
"I was so scared. I told them I would never do anything like that to their holy book, but they didn't believe me," he said.
The situation eventually worsened, prompting Faisal to take his wife, Samina, and son, Joshua, to Thailand, hoping to start a new life and freely practice their Christian faith without being threatened by Muslim extremists.
However, nothing went as planned: After arriving in Thailand, Faisal and his family filed an asylum application. But six months later, the U.N. agency responsible for protecting refugees had still not issued them an asylum document.
A short time later, Thai immigration police came to arrest the Christian family, and took Samina and Joshua to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) - a facility that houses 200 people crammed into tiny rooms with only two toilets.
"I was not at home when the Thai police came to our apartment," Faisal said. "My wife told them she was a heart patient and that they should not arrest her, but they didn't listen."
Samina's health slowly deteriorated, and her heart condition began to worsen. Despite Faisal's pleas, Thai authorities refused to bring her to a hospital or allow him to take heart medications to his wife.
"I kept asking, I kept crying, but they did not listen to me," he told CBN News. "I told them that if you don't do anything, she will die," he said.
On Dec. 30, 2015, the U.N. finally responded to Faisal's asylum plea, but it was too late for Samina, who died in detention.
"My life is so terrible right now," Faisal said as tears streamed down his cheek. "We faced so many difficulties in Pakistan and that's why we escaped to Thailand. Now I'm here and my wife is dead! What am I supposed to do? My son keeps asking, 'Where is mommy?' But I don't have the courage to tell him the truth."
Open Doors USA notes that in Pakistan, which is #6 on the 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, oppression and violence have forced thousands of believers to flee to Thailand. The UN claims that some 4,000 Pakistani Christians have fled; the real number is thought to be about 10,000.
However, the Thai government refuses them refugee status: they cannot work, are subject to police intimidation and live on handouts. A March investigation by the BBC found that Thailand had arrested and detained thousands of asylum seekers on illegal immigration charges. Many of them are Pakistani Christian refugees, and some are children.
While the situation is currently bleak, UNHCR claims it is cooperating with the Thai government to find better ways to manage the situation of the Pakistani Christian refugees in a way that will conform to international standards.
Faisal revealed that as he mourns the loss of his wife and waits for a better future, he is relying on his Christian faith for comfort and often reads verses from Psalm 121. He also reminds his young son that no matter what the future holds, God will take care of them.
"I trust in God, only God can help us in our time of difficulties," he said.